these aren’t the suburbs: rougher in these parts, Inuvik

Smooth latte at a new café at the extreme northern end of town—a coffee shop equipped with cappuccino machine, baked treats: blueberry loaves to wraps. Native artwork adorns the plain wall—vibrant quilts and wooden canoe. And a wall of delectables to purchase: Inuit cloudberry tea, coffee presses, and boxes of hot chocolate. Ordinary grey marbled tables with ordinary grey chairs. But this is a close second to my missed Starbucks. They make a mean latte!

The town looks brighter with the sun high in the sky—though the sun is always up, it’s not always high in the sky. The overnight sunshine and the not-so-tired children make this a difficult place to get a good rest, even with tinfoil on the windows. As a typical North West Territories town, scrubby topography, and block-like homes, I wouldn’t describe it as the beauty of the north.

Garbage is all over the roads, sidewalks, and playgrounds. Not like Africa, with chickens pecking in the sewer lines on the walkways. Still, coffee tops, Kleenexes, pop bottles, broken liquor bottles–everything and anything strewn about.

When we arrived at the park one afternoon, a group of day camp children were picking up as many pop cans as they could find in a minute: 19! And the garbage: in 20 minutes, the girls collected two grocery bags (also found at the playground) filled with bottles. They were excited to add money to their ice cream collection, but we would later learn that the bottle depot burned to the ground the week before.

One more day of eighty dollar grocery purchases: I’m thinking of fasting. Maybe two weeks of fasting will convince the kids that a full belly is better than continuously contented taste buds. Somehow that doesn’t seem right. Rather than spending $180 a week, I’ll spend $80 every two days! Yikes– $320 a week! We spend more here than at Disneyland and there are no Disney Princesses to entertain us.

A brisk wind whipping my just-showered face, mist spraying as I walk down Main Street an hour before lunch. The summer day is not apparent. The cloud cover is overwhelming the air that I breathe. My matted wet hair seems frozen to my head, my ears nipped at their outer edges and deep throbbing inside.

As I saunter past North Mart, two young guys meet up to greet, “Good Morning”. Or is that a cuff upside the head and a fist in the gut? Yes, the latter. Okay, I’ve been witness to a brawl at two in the morning outside my bedroom window, and now, after everyone’s had a couple hours sleep post-partying, they’re up and at’em for some more.

Jim was called out to an elbow dislocation location in emerg last night—we were going to read a chapter from a new travel and food book. Rather, he was called out to the real thing—our travel experience mixed with someone else’s vino. Okay, so it might have been a mickey of whiskey, possibly a six pack of beer, a few shots too many?  Jim made an ill-timed comment about bringing back prohibition.

This ain’t the burbs. Can be a rough place to live.

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